The Latest Discoveries in Egyptology (October-November 2017)

Every few months, the Nile Scribes bring you summaries of the latest news and discoveries in Egyptology, both from the field and the lab. We’ll introduce you to the newest archaeological finds or recently undusted manuscripts being rediscovered in museum collections, plus other new theories stirring in the Egyptological Zeitgeist. In this issue, we draw your attention to two major finds associated with a late Old Kingdom queen, plus further discoveries in Alexandria in underwater archaeology.

Read our post on discoveries announced in August and September

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities publishes a very helpful round-up of recent discoveries, events, and projects in Egypt in an accessible PDF format. The latest issue was published in October 2017 (version: English or Arabic).


Wall markings dating to the Predynastic Period have been found near Aswan (Photo: Ahram Online)
Wall markings dating to the Predynastic Period have been found near Aswan (Photo: Ahram Online)

Ancient wall markings of wild animals uncovered in South Aswan (October 4 – Ahram Online)

Nile Scribes: An exciting discovery was made just south of Aswan in the Subeira Valley. Scenes with various animals such as hippopotami, bulls, and donkeys decorate the wall and areas with tool production were also found near the site.

“During an archaeological survey in the desert of Subeira Valley, south Aswan, an Egyptian archaeological mission from the Ministry of Antiquities stumbled upon pre-Dynastic rock markings. Adel Kelani described the discovery as important because it dates to the same period of markings founds in caves in southern France, Spain and Italy, which confirms the idea that art and civilisation during that time spread from Africa to Europe and not vice versa.”


New Pyramidion discovered in Sakkara necropolis (October 15 – Daily News Egypt)

NS: A pyramidion was a pyramidal-shaped stone, which would be placed at the very top of a pyramid. This one was discovered at Saqqara and is attributed to the pyramid of Queen Ankhnespepy II – more on another discovery to do with her below.

“The Ministry of Antiquities announced that the pyramidion is 1.3 m high and 1.1 m long on its sides. The condition it was found upon indicates that it was left unfinished or has been reused. ‘The upper part of the pyramidion is partly destroyed, but it shows that it was covered by a foil of metal (whether gold or copper), and the lower part of the pyramidion has an unclean surface which indicated it has been either reused or left unfinished’, explains Mostafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.”


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The wooden head of a statue of Queen Ankhnespepy II (Photo: Ahram Online)

Head of Queen Ankhnespepy II statue discovered in Giza’s Saqqara (October 18 – Ahram Online)

NS: An archaeological mission recently made an intriguing find in Saqqara: the head of a wooden statue of what appears to be a late Old Kingdom queen. In looking at the artistic style of the head, some specialists have expressed doubts regarding its date: does it perhaps date to the early New Kingdom? We await further investigation.

“A French-Swiss archaeological team have unearthed the head of a wooden statue of Queen Ankhnespepy II (6th Dynasty, Old Kingdom, around 2350 BC), near her pyramid in the Saqqara area in Giza. Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the head is of almost-human proportions, and is around 30cm high. The ears are decorated with wooden earrings. Professor Philippe Collombert, the head of the Geneva University mission, said that the head was found in a disturbed layer to the east of the queen’s pyramid near the area where the pyramidion was uncovered early this week.”


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Part of a Hellenistic gymnasium discovered in the Fayoum (Photo: Ahram Online)

First Hellenistic gymnasium in Egypt discovered at Watfa village in Fayoum (November 6 – Ahram Online)

NS: At ancient Philoteris, a third century B.C. Greek village in the Fayoum, a German and Egyptian archaeological mission has discovered a Hellenistic gymnasium that was used by the Greek population as a place for men to be schooled in sports, literature, and philosophy. The gymnasium complex at Philoteris consisted of a large meeting hall, dining hall, race-track, and gardens.

“[Cornelia] Römer explains that gymnasia were privately founded by rich people who wanted their villages to become even more Greek in aspect. There, she continued, the young men of the Greek speaking upper-class were trained in sports, learned to read and write, and to enjoy philosophical discussions. All big cities of the Hellenistic world, like Athens in Greece, Pergamon and Miletus in Asia Minor, and Pompei in Italy, had such gymnasia. “The gymnasia in the Egyptian countryside were built after their pattern. Although much smaller, the gymnasium of Watfa clearly shows the impact of Greek life in Egypt, not only in Alexandria, but also in the countryside,” Römer said.”


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The sarcophagus contained a well-preserved mummy with some decoration still intact (Photo: Ahram Online)

Mummy discovered at Fayoum’s Deir Al-Banat (November 14 – Ahram Online)

NS: A well-preserved mummy was found in a wooden sarcophagus in the Fayoum basin. While some cartonnage from the face mask as well as some decoration remain, the wooden sarcophagus is in a fragmentary condition. The cemetery where the mummy was found, is renown for its Coptic and Islamic burials, though also contained burials from Graeco-Roman times.

“During excavation work carried out at the Deir Al-Banat (Al-Banat Monastery) archaeological site in Fayoum, an Egyptian-Russian mission from the Russian Institute for Oriental Studies discovered a wooden Graeco-Roman sarcophagus with a mummy inside. He [Mostafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities] explains that the mummy is wrapped in linen and has a blue and gold cartonnage mask. The mask is decorated with scenes depicting the sky deity Kheibir, while the mummy’s chest is decorated with the face of the goddess Isis. The legs have an image of a white sabot.”


Isis temple unearthed by builders in Banha (November 17 – Egypt Independent)

NS: An intriguing discovery was made just north of Cairo in Banha as part of a residential construction project: the remains of a temple to Isis was found and the MoA sent a team of archaeologists to investigate. We look forward to hearing more about this exciting find.

“The ruins of an ancient Egyptian temple built for the Egyptian deity, Isis, were discovered on Thursday by workers on a residential project in Banha City, capital of the Qalyubiya Governorate. Pharaonic inscriptions depicting the ancient Egyptian deities, Horus and Isis, were displayed on the temple’s walls and pillars. The discovery has the potential to put the area on the map for tourists enthusiastic about Egyptology.”


Sunken vessels dating back to Roman era discovered in Alexandria (November 21 – Egypt Independent)

NS: Underwater archaeology is a field often associated with Alexandria due to many antiquities lying beneath the water, as the shoreline has moved further and further inland over time. While the photo used in the article is in regard to an exhibit that was recently held in the British Museum, three vessels with a hoard of objects were discovered by an Egyptian team in the port of Alexandria – the finds date to Roman times.

“The wreckages of three vessels dating back to the Roman era were discovered during excavations in the Mediterranean Sea carried out by an Egyptian mission in cooperation with the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology at the Eastern Port of Alexandria, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa al-Waziry announced. Waziry added in a press statement Tuesday that the mission also discovered a royal head of crystal dating back to the Roman era, three gold coins from the era of Emperor Octavius Augustus in the Gulf of Abuquir in Alexandria, as well as a boat made of lead for the god Osiris in the sunken city of Heraklion city in the Gulf of Abuquir, Alexandria.”